A EULAR task force will spend the next few months gathering data on the extent to which female rheumatologists working in academia face discrimination and barriers to progression in their career.
At a meeting this month, the European League Against Rheumatism task force on gender equity in rheumatology set out plans to identify the specific issues preventing women reaching senior positions both in their institutions and within EULAR committees and working groups.
Dr Laura Coates, a clinician scientist at the University of Oxford and founding task force member, said they would launch a survey towards the end of the year asking female rheumatologists working in academia about their experience.
EULAR committee leads will also be asked to provide details on the gender balance in their groups.
There is also a plan to carry out more in-depth qualitative interviews to look at what needs to change to ensure gender equality within EULAR specifically she explained.
The task force is hoping to present the results within a wider session tackling on the issues around female representation within the profession at the annual congress in June.
Prior to the first meeting, the 22 task force members were asked about their own experience of barriers to moving forward in their career.
“Broadly speaking there are societal barriers, which EULAR can’t fix, such as maternity leave in different countries, overall sexism.
“But then there are institutional barriers at the hospital or university level, such as flexible working, childcare, meetings not held in the day time when it’s easier to attend.
“And the professional barriers which include very few female professors so there is a lack of role models and some more individual barriers including women being less likely to apply for a role unless they fit all the criteria or taking on more administrative work to just keep services running.”
EULAR has had one female president in its 72 year history, she pointed out but the current president Professor Iain McInnes was very keen to address these issues.
Dr Coates stressed that it was not about making women “more like men” but about ensuring diversity and getting rid of outdated thinking that women are less likely to be interested in maths and science or do not want to do the more senior jobs – something she was told by a male reviewer this year.
“I want women to know they can do these things if they want to rather than telling them what they don’t want to do. We want people who have a diverse approach, different management styles, and different leadership styles.”